Last August I spent my holidays in Florida, with the idea of doing some birding. I have added a new post in my blog, including the complete description of my trip to this area of the USA, including maps and pictures. The link is the following:
Last November 2009 I spent some days in Orlando, as I had to assist to working meeting. I enjoyed so much with that visit, that I thought that we should repeat it. For this reason, we decided to spent our 2010 holidays in Florida, as I try to show you in the pictures included in this blog. It was a family trip (with all limitations that it has regarding ornithology...), done between August 4th and 24th, 2010. I have to recognize that these are not the best dates. Although we avoid hurricanes, weather was terribly hot and humid, with lots of mosquitoes. Despite this, we managed to see how is Florida, specially the area of the Everglades National Park. I hope to come back again during the best ornithological season (from November to March).
We began and ended our trip in Kissimmee, near Orlando and the well known Disney theme parks. We stayed 4 days, both at the beginning and at the end of the trip to enjoy these parks, but also some nearby interesting areas, as Blue Springs State Park and Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve and, also, the Kennedy Space Center. In the resting periods I could do some birding around the hotel.
2. BLUE SPRINGS STATE PARK
This park, located north-east to Kissimmee, at about 1 hour by car, is an important winter refuge for west indian manatees. Springs are subterranean origins of rivers, very abundant in this area of Florida, and share the characteristic of keeping water temperature constant around the year, which is essential for manatee survival during winter. In addition to swimming in the spring, we took a ship in the St. Johns river, where we could see, in addition to 5 manatees, a good number of herons and egrets, some raptors (specially osprey and vultures), and some alligators and turtles. This day was specially hot, and the ship allow us to avoid being exhausted.
3. FROM KISSIMMEE TO FLORIDA CITY: EVERGLADES AND BYSCAINE NATIONAL PARKS
From Kissimme we went to Florida City (4 hours by car), to visit the main entrance to the national park. We stayed in a motel in Florida City for 6 nights. As it was the humid season, animals tend to disperse, making observations more difficult. Hot weather was also a handicap.
3.1. Butterfly World, Coconut Creek
In route we visited this area, which was really interesting. This is a park full of butterflies and hummingbirds flying around you. For child, really unforgettable.
3.2. Florida City
Around the motel we could see some species, as an example of all diversity that we would see in the national park, although some species, as minas and commnon starlings, were introduced.
3.3. Everglades National Park:
From the Visitor Center to Flamingo
The single road inside the park direct you to Flamingo, where there is an information center (also at the entrance). It is about 50 km long, travelling through the different habitats seen in the park. It is convenient to stop in the different ponds and lacoons indicated in the road.
3.4. Everglades National Park: Snake Bight Trail, Coot Bay Pond and Paurotis Pond
Coot Bay Pond and Paurotis Pond are located very near to the road, and they allowed the observaton, in addition to the landscape, of pelicans and alligators. Snake Bith Trail was promising, but we could not finished it due to the abundant mosquitoes (more than 40 bites in less than 10 mintues).
3.5. Everglades National Park: Eco Pond
INDISPENSABLE. One of the most interesting places. Small pond with a trail around it (15-20 min). We could observe turkey vulture, roseate spoonbills, and royal terns.
3.6. Everglades National Park: Flamingo
INDISPENSABLE. From this point you can get a boat trips, that we did no took. Abundat laughing gulls, black vultures, and american crow, and importantly, american crocodile.
3.7. Everglades National Park: Coastal Prairie Trail
INDISPENSABLE. Another of the important points, specially for wading birds, and osprey and red-shouldered hawks.
3.8. Everglades National Park: Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook
Beautiful landscapes, but almost devoid of animals. We spent only few minutes there.
3.9. Everglades National Park: Anhinga Trail
INDISPENSABLE. One of the best places in the park. A pond with a trail that you can do in about 15-20 minutes (without stops), with abundant anhingas, herons and egrets, and specially alligators. Incredible how near you have them. We repited that place three times.
3.10. Everglades National Park: Gumbo Limbo Trail
Very near to Anhinga Trail, and shorter than it. Although you can see only few birds, is a beautiful area, with very dense vegetation.
3.11. Everglades National Park: Pinelands Trail
This habitat is not common in the park , and constrast with the areas around it, completely flooded.
3.12. Everglades National Park: Shark Valley
INDISPENSABLE. Herbaceous flooded area, plenty of egrets and herons, and some alligators. Long trail that you can do walking, in bicycle (you can rent one in the information center), or in a train going from the information center to the observation tower. A very hot day..., thus better to take the train!.
3.13. Byscaine National Park: Convoy Point
Beautiful park, located at about 30 min by car from Florida City, in which you can do some snorkelling. Also interesting to see sea birds (royal terns, cormorants, etc.). Indispensable to take a boat in the information center at Convoy Point.
4. FLORIDA KEYS
After enjoying with the national park , we decided to visit the Florida Keys. We went to a motel in Key West (formerly Cayo Hueso), were we spent 3 nights. It takes about 3.5 hours by car to reach Key West from Florida City.
4.1. Key West
An interesting city to visit. From Key West you can rent a boat trip to do some snorkelling and to see dolphins.
4.2. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (Key West)
This park is located in the southern part of Key West. You can do some interesting observations, as white-crowned pigeons, some passerines, and gulls. This an important spot during migrations as is the last (or first) piece of land seen before crossing the Caribbean sea.
4.3. Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge (Big Pine Key)
We did this visit to try to see the endangered subspecies of the white-tailed deer: the key deer. And we managed to see some of them.
4.4. Bahia Honda State Park (Bahia Honda Key)
INDISPENSABLE. Really interesting park. You can refresh yourself in the beach, and at the same time see wading birds (sanderlings, turnstones, dowitchers, etc.).
5. FROM KEY WEST TO KISSIMMEE: EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK (OESTE), BIG CYPRESS, FAKAHATCHEE STRAND PRESERVE AND FLORIDA PANTHER NWR
Coming back from Florida Keys, we aimed to know the west part of Everglades. When I prepared our trip, I realized that visiting this area would be difficult, but that there were also interesting areas as Big Cypress and Fakahatchee. In fact, in this part of Everglades you only can take a boat or a canoe to visit the Ten Thousand Islands area, or to take an airboat. Despite this, I think that at the end, visiting this area was also interesting. We spent 3 nights in Everglades City. Moving from Key West to Everglades City took about 4.5 hours by car.
5.1. Everglades National Park (Ten Thousand Islands area and Everglades City)
As I said before, we took a boat to visit this area, and we enjoyed seen a manatee, several racoons, and egrets, herons, cormorants, and pelicans. In the nearby coasts, between Everglades City and Chokoloskee, you can also do some interesting observations. We also took an airbat near Everglades City.
5.2. Big Cypress National Preserve
One of the most intesting visits in this area, specially the Kirby Storter Roadside Park Boardwalk (easy trail that you can do in about 40 minutes). Very beautiful the flooded area with cypresses. Beautiful landscapes. In Turner River-Wagonwheel-Birdon Road Loop Scenic Drive is possible to see abundant alligators and egrets and herons.
5.3. Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Also very interesting, specially the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk (easy trail of about 30 minutes), with more dense vegetation than the Big Cypress National Preserve. We could see barred owl, turtles and toads.
5.4. Florida Panther National Wildlife Reserve
This was simply a short stop when we come back to Kissimmee (4 hours trip). We enjoyed with the landscapes and with several red-bellied woodpeckers. However, as this was only a short visit, we could not see the Florida panther. There is a circular trail that you can do in about 40 minutes.
6. KENNEDY SPACE CENTER AND MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE RESERVE
The Merritt Island NWR is a very interesting area in winter. However, in summer there was only few birds, and in addition my family was somehow tired of so much birding. Thus we had to do a quick visit. A different day we went to the Kennedy Space Center, located in the same island, a very interesting visit. Both are located at about 1 hour from Kissimmee by car.
6.1. Kennedy Space Center
Cultural visit to know the american spatial adventure. Interesting, and in addition, it was possible to see some birds.
6.2. Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve
To finish, the Merritt Island NWR seemed to be a very interesting area, that I will visit for sure another time if I have to come back to Florida. The Black Point Wildlife Drive, which you have to do by car, gives lots of chances of doing good birding, and in winter will be, probably, spectacular.
In summary, a very interesting trip, with good oportunities to observe animals. We could see a total of 84 species of birds, 6 of mammals, 10 of reptiles and 3 of amphibians. The complete list of species in each area visited can be seen in this link: